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With regard to this question, assuming it is decided that a monk can use unarmed attacks "off-hand" in two-weapon fighting, does a monk using the standard rules for two-weapon fighting with "off-hand" unarmed attacks get 1x or 0.5x strength bonus on said attacks?

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The rules are worded weirdly, and I will disagree with KRyan, and the FAQ, on their reading. Woe is me...

TL;DR: If the Monk chooses to use Two-Weapon Fighting, she may use her full Strength modifier with her off-hand unarmed strike.


First, we need to consider the regular rules. For Damage (PHB, p. 135):

Damage

If you score a hit, roll damage and deduct it from the target’s current hit points. Add your Strength modifier on damage rolls involving melee and thrown weapons. If you’re using a weapon in your off hand, add one-half your Strength modifier (if it’s a bonus). If you’re wielding a weapon with both hands, add one and a half times your Strength modifier (if it’s a bonus.)

For Two-Weapon Fighting (PHB, p. 160):

Two-Weapon Fighting

If you wield a second weapon in your off hand, you can get one extra attack per round with that weapon. [...] You can reduce these penalties in two ways:

  • If your off-hand weapon is light, the penalties are reduced by 2 each. (An unarmed strike is always considered light.)
  • The Two-Weapon Fighting feat lessens the primary hand penalty by 2, and the off-hand penalty by 6.

From this, we conclude that:

  • If you wield a second weapon in your off hand, you can get one extra attack per round with that weapon.
  • There are penalties for attacking with your off-hand, and you only get to add 1/2 your Strength modifier as bonus to damage.

As noted by KRyan's answer to the question you linked, there is the issue that technically one needs to wield a weapon in one's off hand to gain one extra attack, and one wishing to make an Unarmed Strike typically doesn't -- though the Monk could.

From the highlighted excerpt about an Unarmed Strike always being considered Light, which only makes sense if making an Unarmed Strike with the off-hand is possible in the first place, I interpret the rules as allowing using Two-Weapon Fighting without wielding a weapon in one's off-hand.


Then we need to consider the Monk's Unarmed Strike (PHB, p. 41):

Unarmed Strike: Monks are highly trained in fighting unarmed, giving them considerable advantages when doing so. [...] There is no such thing as an off-hand attack for a monk striking unarmed. A monk may thus apply her full Strength bonus on damage rolls for all her unarmed strikes.

Invoking the principle that context is everything, I will consider the two last sentences together.

In isolation, the first sentence does not make much sense. "striking unarmed" or "strike unarmed" appears nowhere else in the PHB. The proper game term would be "making an Unarmed Strike", which is used consistently.

By reading the first sentence in light of the second sentence, however, it all makes sense:

  • The second sentence grants the Monk the benefit of using her full Strength modifier with all Unarmed Strikes; thereby overriding the Damage rule for off-hand damage in this case.
  • The first sentence therefore introduces the second sentence: it's an opening line, in plain English. Just fluff, with no game consequences.

And in this light, the formulation of the first sentence makes sense:

  • Plain English sentences are not restricted to using game terms, so "striking unarmed" is not an issue.
  • When the Monk makes an Unarmed Strike with her off-hand, it deals the same amount of damage as a regular attack... as if it were a regular attack. As if it was not an off-hand attack. Hence, from an observer, "There is no such thing as an off-hand attack for a monk striking unarmed", all attacks are indistinguishable.

Hence, as a result:

  • It is permissible to use Two-Weapon Fighting without wielding a weapon in your off-hand, in which case the extra attack is an Unarmed Strike.
  • All Unarmed Strikes from a Monk apply the Monk's full Strength modifier to damage, as a special case overriding the regular 1/2 Strength modifier on off-hand attacks.

I must warn, though, that the result is less than stellar:

  • Flurry of Blows gives: -2/-2 at the start, -1/-1 starting from 5th level, no penalty from 9th level, and an additional attack from 11th level.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting gives: -4/-8 in the absence of the feat, and -2/-2 with it.

Furthermore, Flurry of Blows also grants the full Strength modifier for the "bonus" attacks even when attacking with Special Monk Weapons.

There is the Two-Weapon Feat fighting line, which for the cost of 3 feats would allow a Monk 15 (or higher) to make 3 more attacks, however it uses iterative attack penalties for the extra attacks, on top of the -2 penalty, so even then seems less attractive than only 2 extra attacks at full BAB. Especially on a BAB-starved class.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think all three answers are pretty solid. I chose this one because I believe that your contextual look at those two sentences in the monk unarmed strike is probably correct. I think a DM could reasonably consider any answer, though. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 30, 2021 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I cannot see any way to arrive at the conclusions that you have. Two-weapon fighting doesn’t require a light weapon (officially; practically it does), and being light is a fact independent of whether or not you’re using two-weapon fighting. So the entire analysis around being light seems irrelevant and I’m not sure how it’s supposed to serve as evidence for your conclusion. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 4, 2021 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ At the same time, two-weapon fighting does require an off hand weapon—which a monk’s unarmed strike cannot be. Your statement “one needs to wield a weapon in one's off hand to gain one extra attack, and one wishing to make an Unarmed Strike typically doesn't -- though the Monk could,” is exactly backwards, since anyone else would have no problem doing so, but the rules say that the monk can’t, because there is “no such thing as an off hand attack for a monk striking unarmed.” I don’t see any way around that statement—my own answer basically just ignores it, as I think you must. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 4, 2021 at 19:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan: Given that the issue was brought to light, I believe important to address it. I agree that RAW there doesn't seem to be any way to attack without holding a weapon in the off-hand, however I believe that RAI is clear given the clarification given by "If your off-hand weapon is light, the penalties are reduced by 2 each. (An unarmed strike is always considered light.)" There would be no need to clarify Unarmed Strikes here if there was no way to make an off-hand Unarmed Strike, and therefore it seems clear that the previous requirement unintentionally omitted them. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 5, 2021 at 10:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan The only reason to have the "thus" statement is if monks are capable of making an attack that would otherwise have a non 1xStr modifier. The only thing that I know of that exists in 3.5e is a two-weapon fighting off-hand weapon attack. That is why I chose this answer, from that context. As I mentioned already, though, I believe any of the three answers provided for this question are valid. This one is the one I think best serves the game, though. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 7, 2021 at 6:45
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I know, it’s very controversial whether one should use the 3.5 Main D&D FAQ as a source for rules clarifications (see here). But since there are two entries (pages 19, 20) that directly address the above question, I think it’s worth taking a look at them.

According to the FAQ a monk can indeed use unarmed attacks off-hand in two-weapon fighting with the off-hand attack gaining only half Strength bonus to damage. It's also possible to combine Flurry of Blows and TWF.

The rules don’t come right out and say that a monk can’t use an unarmed strike for an off-hand strike (although the exact wording of the unarmed strike ability suggests otherwise), and no compelling reason why a monk could not do so exists. When using an unarmed strike as an off-hand attack, the monk suffers all the usual attack penalties from two-weapon fighting (see Table 8–10 in the PH) and the monk adds only half her Strength bonus (if any) to damage if the off-hand unarmed strike hits.

(emphasis mine)

A monk can fight with two weapons just like any other character, but she must accept the normal penalties on her attack rolls to do so. She can use an unarmed strike as an offhand weapon. She can even combine two-weapon fighting with a flurry of blows to gain an extra attack with her off hand (but remember that she can use only unarmed strikes or special monk weapons as part of the flurry). The penalties for two weapon fighting stack with the penalties for flurry of blows.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Given the rejection of the actual rules written, I think turning to the FAQ is a fine choice in this case. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 27, 2021 at 21:56
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That would seem to be consistent with the ruling you assume in the question.

The source of this confusion is this:

There is no such thing as an off-hand attack for a monk striking unarmed. A monk may thus apply her full Strength bonus on damage rolls for all her unarmed strikes.

It’s not at all clear why this sentence exists or what it really means. The literal meaning of the words—that the monk loses the ability to make offhand attacks with unarmed strikes—makes no sense at all since the sentence prior to this is

A monk’s attacks may be with either fist interchangeably or even from elbows, knees, and feet. This means that a monk may even make unarmed strikes with her hands full.

They are emphasizing here that a monk is good at making more attacks with unarmed strikes—why would they therefore be incapable of doing so? And if we assume that this doesn’t mean they’re incapable of doing so—as the question does—what else could these sentences mean?

The only reasonable explanation that I can imagine is that they were imagining the monk making these attacks as part of a flurry of blows; they seem to never consider the idea that a monk may want to use two-weapon fighting when they have flurry of blows available. The rules for flurry of blows make the same statement about using 1×Str for damage rolls—not ½×, as for an offhand attack, and not 1½×, as for a two-handed attack—and it would be very appropriate and consistent for flurry of blows to specify that none of the attacks made during a flurry of blows are considered offhand.

Unfortunately, that’s not where they put the rule. They put the rule in unarmed strikes, and that causes immense confusion.

Anyway, assuming you don’t buy that a monk’s mastery of unarmed strikes makes them somehow incapable of using them with two-weapon fighting, it makes sense for you to ignore the other “half” of that blurb and apply the ½×Str to damage, too. Otherwise what we’re doing is selectively ignoring the rule we don’t like (“There is no such thing as an off-hand attack for a monk striking unarmed.”) while still taking advantage of the rule we do even though it builds off the rule we’re ignoring (“A monk may thus apply her full Strength bonus on damage rolls for all her unarmed strikes,” emphasis mine), which is inconsistent. If we’re going to ignore it, we should do so consistently.

Of course, if we want to take this beyond the realm of “ruling” and into outright “houserules,” allowing the monk to make offhand unarmed strikes, and still get full Str bonus to damage on them, is entirely reasonable: the monk is a terrible class and it’s a bone we can easily toss them. Won’t fix the problems with the monk class on its own, though, not by a long shot.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I always read that as "a monk's unarmed attacks are never considered off-hand attacks" - not that monks don't have the option of (eg.) TWF with an unarmed "off-hand", but that their monk-ness removes the "off-hand" penalty of using only 1/2 str. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Aug 26, 2021 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @minnmass I could see that, but it’s pretty blatantly not what they wrote. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 26, 2021 at 21:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not seeing how the negation of the off-hand is equivalent to negating the option of two-weapon fighting. In the rules for two-weapon fighting, we see the conditional "[i]f you wield a second weapon in your off hand, you can get one extra attack per round with that weapon." If p then q. Negating p does not negate the q of a conditional. (In fact, many conditionals can be expressed as "not p and q" - which does seem to be occuring here.) Can you explain, a bit better, why you think that negating the off hand quality of a monk's unarmed strike would negate their additional attack? \$\endgroup\$
    – NFeutz
    Aug 28, 2021 at 2:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NFeutz If “There is no such thing as an off-hand attack for a monk striking unarmed,” then they cannot be considered to have their unarmed strike as “a second weapon” “wielded” “in your off hand,” even setting aside the system’s idiosyncracies around “wield” and “in a given hand.” Therefore they do not meet the requirements for two-weapon fighting’s extra attack. Also, your formal logic there falls down because you have left out a fundamental assumption of the system as a whole: you can’t do anything unless something says you can. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 28, 2021 at 3:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ But nothing has negated the conditional that allows for two-weapon fighting. The game rules aren't broken, they're just not intuitive for people who aren't familiar with formal logical systems. Can you expound, in your answer preferably, why you think that the sentence "[t]here is no such thing as an off-hand attack for a monk striking unarmed" negates the two weapon fighting option? You seem to assume everyone follows your interpretation of the interaction, but strictly speaking the two weapon fighting rule has not been broached at all, since the conditional is not negated. \$\endgroup\$
    – NFeutz
    Sep 4, 2021 at 18:46

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